2004, I had resigned from Mudra and was to join Dainik Bhaskar at Mumbai. It was in that period, that few of us decided to take an all-male trip to Naukuchital, Nanital. All five of us from Mudra; Arun Mahajan, Ajmer Singh, Maan Saab, Manoj Papneja and me.
It was going to be my farewell trip with the gang. We started in the morning of 14th August. Now we did not leave Delhi on the scheduled time. Moreover, it rained during the way. It was late in evening when we finally landed ‘Kumaon Vikas Mandal’ Guest house. It is right at the edge of Naukuchital.
It is a place you can fall in love at first sight. There were three rooms for us on the second floor, which was also the top floor. Thanks to Arun Mahajan’s connect or juggad an additional room, which was under repair at that time was made available for the evening drinks.
It was just the perfect place to enjoy our drinks. With a large majestic window that opened on to the lake view with hills all around. With few of us, smoking it was good to get the additional room for the party, otherwise the smoke circulating in the room would have given us a bad headache the next day.
We carried the stock with us from Delhi. The drinks were out in no time. The kitchen at the guest house instructed for the pakodas to be served hot, and a Bhaiya ( help) was sent to the nearby market to buy namkeen.
We were eating and drinking, almost sure that none of us will finally want to have dinner. Drinks were more important. I do not remember what time we went to sleep that night.
Suddenly, we were woken up with a hesitant polite knock at the door. The silence of hills making it sound too loud for the comfort. Cursing I opened the door. It was the guy from the front desk. He was wearing spotless starched white Kurta Pyjama. There was a hint of a forced smile on his otherwise un-welcoming face. After all, we were not the politest and well mannered guest.
My first reaction was ‘Now what’.
I realised he was really smiling. So, there was nothing wrong.
He said ‘please come and do the flag hoisting.’
‘Flag Hoisting – me – why’.
Sir, today is 15th August (How could I forget), and as you are the only guest in our hotel, we would want you to do the hoisting’.
‘Oh, no, no, I can’t do that’.
For some unknown silly reason, it was an almost involuntary response. I am not sure why, but I as not wanted to be bothered with it. There was no reason for me to do that. Never before has anyone asked me to do such an honourable thing.
I directed him to another room, where the reaction was no different. I think we all were behaving in an immature way. There was nothing to be afraid of. We were the same people who would have otherwise bought those double taped plastic flags to put on our cars as a stupid symbol of patriotic impressions.
He was merely asked to knock on the next door. I don’t even think of what would have been going through the mind of that front-desk guy. However, here he was lucky. Arun Mahajan jumped at the opportunity, asked him to give him few minutes to freshen up and join them at the flag hoisting site.
As promised, Arun joined them at the lawns. He was wearing his Kurta Pyjama as if he knew all the time that something like this could happen.
Few other people from surrounding area joined the employees of the guest house at the lawns. We did not get down to pay our respect to the national flag. We were reluctant to leave the comfort of our rooms. And we call ourselves patriotic.
That year, Arun did the Flag Hoisting at the ‘Kumaon Vikas Mandal’ Guest House. He stood at attention and joined rest of the crowd in singing the national anthem. We at the balcony gave him company.
The anthem does that to you.
Though each one of us has been silly in declining the opportunity to hoist the flag, we immediately stood up in attention to sing the anthem.
I know I was wrong. There is no explanation or excuse for the behaviour. Deep within me, it is something that I will never forget and forgive myself.
Today, whenever the Anthem is played in the movie hall, I am the first one to stand and sing it loud and clear.